Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lavazza Italian Film Festival Review: I Baci Mai Dati [Lost Kisses] (Roberta Torre, 2010)

Lost Kisses is a quaint and vibrant low-budget Italian film, written and directed by Roberta Torre (Angela). Choosing to focus on a small, deprived town in the dilapidated Southern Sicily suburb of Librino, Torre hasn’t necessarily succeeded in making an absorbing or entertaining film, but by tackling both pro and anti-religious ideas, there is some admirable thematic elements present in the story. 

The central character is a thirteen year-old girl, Manuela (Carla Marchese), who spends her days sweeping up hair and trying to remain out of the way at a local salon. Bored, and disillusioned, she spends most of her time remaining oblivious of her dysfunctional family with her headphones plugged in. Her parents are edgy, and constantly at odds with one another. Her mother (Donatella Finocchiaro) is tired of being their personal maid, and any attempt to rectify order in the household is met with begrudging contempt. Manuela’s equally slutty older sister is rebellious, mixed up with drugs and a bad crowd, and steals money from her mother’s purse. 

In the piazza Manuela’s apartment block looks over, a statue of the Madonna has been erected in the centre. For a community as devoutly religious as this one, the erection has been long sought-after and a big deal. During an innocent football game, young boys carelessly knock the head off the Madonna, and to cover their involvement, hide the pieces in a nearby storage shed. Manuela, awoken during the night, claims that the Madonna came to her in a dream and spoke to her – leading her to the successful reclaiming of the pieces. The question: is Manuela a saint or a bored young girl who wakes up and spots the boys running off with the head, and tells a tall tale?

It matters little to the locals who come to her in droves seeking miracles for seemingly everything – employment, wealth, and even a cure for blindness. Seeing it as an easy money-grab, but unsure whether her daughter is as she claims, her mother tries any means necessary to take advantage. Manuela gradually becomes irritated by the attention – but events transpire unexpectedly and the film deviates from being a satirical jab at the Catholic Church, with hope ultimately given to a community that has all-but given up. Torre at first proclaims Manuela’s sainthood, but then just as quickly dismisses it as a potential scam, claiming that people blinded by religion cannot tell the difference between ‘hope’ and ‘lies’, which is certainly a perilous stance. Luckily the film also becomes an emotionally resonant re-bonding between an estranged mother and daughter, and features it’s strongest sequences near the conclusion. 

Despite being just 80 minutes in lengths, the film lags badly on numerous occasions, the story feels stretched to reach a feature-length run time and at the centre is an overlong montage that quickly wore out its welcome. Positively, the performances are strong, especially from the voluptuous Finocchiaro, and Torre does make some interesting soundtrack choices, which help to maintain the film’s energy. 

While there are some nice visual touches, the bizarre flashes of colour in the salon (sequences which served little purpose, I thought) are in sharp contrast to the rest of the film, which adopts a style more grounded in realism. No doubt a larger budget would have aided both the look of the film, and tightened up some of the uneven aspects of the screenplay, but this inspired effort is passable.

Lost Kisses is playing at Palace Norton Street on Saturday 17th September (3.00pm), Sunday 25th September (8.45pm), Thursday 29th September (1.30pm) and Monday 3rd October (8.45pm)


  1. shame you make it sound like i shouldnt go when it hits perth. it was on my shortlist of films that sounded worthwhile. the comparisons to early almodovar are particularly appealing.

  2. I haven't seen much early Almodovar, but this felt like a short film stretched out into a feature, because there are moments where it drags (and its only 80 minutes). Still, the idea is a good one, and the themes it tackles are inspired, as is the soundtrack - but this is hard to recommend. Sorry bro.